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Warm and wet conditions cover most of Georgia in January 2017

Above-normal temperatures covered Georgia again in January 2017, with values ranging from three to more than ten degrees above average.  This is the 12th month in a row with above-normal temperatures for the state as a whole.  In fact, nearly all of the eastern half of the US was well above normal, with colder air focused on the Pacific Northwest.  Rainfall was also well above normal almost everywhere in the state this month, leading to major reductions in drought over the month except in the driest areas in the northeast.

In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 52.0 degrees F (8.7 degrees above normal), in Athens 51.5 degrees (8.0 degrees above normal), Columbus 53.7 (6.5 degrees above normal), Macon 53.9 (7.6 above normal), Savannah 58.11 (8.6 above normal), Brunswick 59.0 (7.5 above normal), Alma 57.4 (6.7 above normal), Augusta 55.5 (10.1 above normal), Albany 56.6 (7.3 above normal), Rome 51.3 (10.1 above normal), and Valdosta 57.3 (6.9 degrees above normal).

Many stations around the state reported that their January average temperature was in the top ten for their records.

A number of record highs were tied or set in January.  Atlanta broke their record high on January 14, observing 77 F to pass the old record of 73 F set in 1937.  Augusta set new record highs on January 13, 15, 18 and 20, in each case by 1-4 degrees.  Savannah broke a record high on January 20, reaching 78 F, which surpassed the old record of 77 F set in 1951.  Alma broke their record high on January 2, observing 82 F which surpassed the old record of 80 F set in 1952 and Brunswick broke a record high on January 20, reporting 80 F which surpassed the old record of 77 F set in 1952.  A number of record highs were also tied.  Several record high minimum temperatures were also set, including Savannah’s high minimum of 66 F on January 2 which climbed above the old record of 64 set in 1985 and Augusta’s high minimum of 60 F which surpassed the old record of 57 F set in 1997.

January was also notable for the number of warm days.  Atlanta and Athens both tied or broke records with 11 and 10 days, respectively, at or above 70 F and many other stations were in the top ten.  In fact, Atlanta had 9 days in a row with temperatures at or above 70 F, Augusta and Columbus had 10 in a row and Macon had eleven consecutive days at or above 70 F.  This was a new January record for all of these stations.

The highest monthly total precipitation from National Weather Service reporting stations was 11.48 inches in Columbus (7.63 inches above normal) and the lowest was in Brunswick with 5.00 (1.78 inches above normal).  Atlanta received 8.18 inches (33.98 inches above normal), Athens received 6.51 inches (2.46 above normal), Macon 11.26 inches (7.02 above normal), Savannah 6.61 inches (2.92 above normal), Augusta 10.13 inches (6.22 above normal), Alma 7.09 inches (2.83 above normal), Valdosta 9.11 inches (4.54 above normal), Rome 7.81 inches (2.99 above normal) and Albany 8.78 inches (3.96 above normal).

Several daily rainfall records were set in January.  Savannah received 4.19 inches on January 22, breaking the old record of 1.33 inches set in 1966.  On the same day Augusta received 2.47 inches, passing the old record of 1.74 inches, Brunswick’s 2.69 inches beat their old record of 1.27 inches and Alma received 3.15 inches, beating their old record of 1.27 inches set in 1956.  Augusta also broke a daily record on January 2, receiving 2.92 inches, which surpassed the old record of 1.64 inches set in 1919.

Augusta, Macon and Columbus set all-time airport records for January monthly rainfall and were the second wettest Januaries on record for their combined historical data.

The highest daily rainfall total from CoCoRaHS observers was 6.23 inches west of Albany in Dougherty County on January 22, followed by 5.43 inches measured at another Albany station just over the border in Lee County on the same morning.  The first Albany observer also had the highest monthly total with 17.44 inches reported.  It was followed by 13.90 inches measured at Fort Gaines in Clay County followed by 13.31 inches from the Lee County Albany observer.

The highest daily snow amount was 6.6 inches set near Hiawassee in Townes County and 6.5 inches reported near Dillard in Rabun County on January 7. These two stations also had the highest monthly totals with 6.9 and 6.8 inches, respectively.

Two rounds of severe weather impacted Georgia in January.  The first round, on January 2, brought high winds and a number of tornadoes to southwest Georgia, although power outages and flash flooding was seen all the way north to Atlanta.  The second round, on January 21-22, brought 73 confirmed tornadoes to the Southeast as a whole and an estimated 40 to the southern half of Georgia.  A map of these tornadoes can be seen below and the National Weather Service report on this storm is available at http://www.weather.gov/ffc/20170121_22_tornadoes.  Maps of the entire two outbreaks can be seen at http://www.ustornadoes.com/2017/01/05/the-largest-tornado-outbreaks-of-2017/.  Many of these storms caused significant damage to the area, especially the one that hit hear Albany on January 22.  A number of fatalities and dozens of injuries occurred from the storms.

Drought and dry conditions were significantly reduced in January due to the heavy rain that hit most of the state.  By the end of the month the area of extreme drought was reduced from 20 percent to less than 4 percent of the area and was confined to northeast Georgia.  The entire state below the fall line from Columbus to Macon to Augusta was completely free of dry conditions by late January.

The wet conditions caused some problems for farmers trying to get field work done.  The warm temperatures were bringing out premature blossoms on some fruit trees, causing concerns for frost damage if cold weather returns.  The chill hour accumulation this winter is only about half of the normal amount and is slightly less than last year’s values through late January.  Supplies of hay continued to be a problem for livestock producers still dealing with the effects of the 2016 drought.

The outlook for February shows that warmer than normal conditions have an enhanced chance of occurring again throughout the month, although there will be some periods of near to below-normal conditions.  Wetter conditions early in the month are expected turn drier by the second week before returning to moister conditions late in February.

For more information please see the “Climate and Agriculture” blog at http://site.extension.uga.edu/climate/  or visit our web page at http://www.gaclimate.org.  Please feel free to email your weather and climate impacts on agriculture to share on the blog to pknox@uga.edu.